Title: "NPT Conference Urged to Strengthen Safeguards Regime." International arms control inspector Hans Blix says the uncovering of a secret nuclear weapons program in Iran
illustrates the need for stronger enforcement of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). (950418)
Translated Title: La conference sur le TNP vise au renforcement des garanties.; Urgen conferencia TNP fortalecer regimen salvaguardias. (950418)
Author: AITA, JUDY (USIA STAFF WRITER)
NPT CONFERENCE URGED TO STRENGTHEN SAFEGUARDS REGIME (Concerns cited about Iraq, Iran, North Korea) (1020) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- The uncovering of a previously undetected nuclear weapons program in Iraq demonstrates one of the dangerous shortcomings that have existed in the system of safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), says the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
"Ineffective safeguards may be worse than none, because they might inspire misplaced confidence with serious consequences," said IAEA Director General Hans Blix April 17 in an address to the opening session of the NPT review and extension conference.
IAEA is responsible for verifying that non-nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT are not diverting nuclear material from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
Since the end of the Gulf war, the inspection system set up by the U.N. Security Council and administered by the IAEA has revealed that, apart from the previously declared and safeguarded quantities of nuclear material, there existed in Iraq large undeclared nuclear installations for the enrichment of uranium, Blix explained.
"The inspection system mandated by the Security Council in the case of Iraq and explicitly accepted by Iraq as part of the cease-fire gave the IAEA inspectorate incomparably wider powers than states have given the agency under NPT-type safeguards agreements," Blix said.
By using the wide rights to make random inspections throughout Iraq with the backing of the Security Council, he said, IAEA has been able to "draw a coherent and consistent picture of the Iraqi nuclear program and to remove or neutralize" items used for the nuclear weapons program.
Some measures instituted after discovering Iraq's covert nuclear weapons program helped IAEA to discover in 1992 that "there was more plutonium in the DPRK (North Korea) than had been declared," Blix noted.
Citing lessons learned from the DPRK case, the IAEA director general said sampling and advanced analytical techniques are "powerful tools" to verify past and present nuclear activities without being intrusive. Satellite imagery can be very helpful in guiding inspectors where to look for evidence, he added.
Proposals for more effective safeguards measures which give IAEA greater access to information and sites are now before the IAEA board of governors, Blix noted. If they are accepted they will "significantly increase the level of assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear activities," he said. Increased IAEA access to nuclear and nuclear-related sites -- sometimes on short notice or with no notice at all -- is being requested.
"What is certain is that more cooperation will be called for," Blix told the NPT conference.
"This should not be difficult to accept if safeguards are seen by states not as an imposition but as an opportunity to demonstrate non-proliferation bona fides," Blix said.
During the NPT review and extension conference nations will discuss the concrete means and political obligations required to strengthen the NPT regime as well as decide on the life of the treaty.
John Holum, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, pointed out at a press conference April 18 that "the IAEA safeguards regime has been strengthened considerably after the Iraq experience, where it became painfully clear that while it is possible to know what it is going on in declared facilities, it is not possible to know through the earlier process about unsafeguarded and undeclared facilities -- where Iraq was very far along (toward) acquiring nuclear weapons capability."
"As a result of that experience three things have happened," Holum said. "First, the IAEA has begun to exercise its right to conduct challenge inspections, and that is what brought the situation in North Korea to light. A second thing which has happened -- which is also important in the North Korean situation -- has been the increased sharing with the IAEA by countries around the world of information that they acquired by various means to assist the IAEA."
"The third thing that has happened is the IAEA itself is undergoing a very comprehensive technical improvement of the safeguards program...which embraces such things as environmental monitoring away from strategic sites. That kind of capability dramatically increases the capability of detecting undeclared facilities and clandestine programs and, under the right they are now asserting, (IAEA) would then conduct a challenge inspection," Holum said.
In the case of U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, Holum said, "We're trying to deal with Iran at a much earlier stage: where they're trying to acquire materials and technologies. That kind of activity in Iran is very hard to detect under rights available to the IAEA."
"If the nuclear weapons program in Iran were to proceed to the actual construction of weapons or perhaps some steps short of that, like enrichment and reprocessing fuel to make plutonium, there would be an increased likelihood of catching it. But the program would be much further along than we would like to see it proceed," Holum said.
The Campaign for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a coalition of 18 of the largest U.S. arms control organizations, is calling for steps to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime as well as for the indefinite extension of the NPT.
Without taking concrete steps to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime "the NPT cannot attain its objectives of ending nuclear weapons proliferation and bringing about the progressive elimination of nuclear arms," according to a statement released by the campaign.
The coalition is calling on the NPT parties to accept improved safeguards, including steps to detect undeclared nuclear activities and to increase international financial and technical support for safeguards implementation, said Joseph Cirincione, executive director of the campaign.
"We're also calling for stronger export controls," Cirincione said. "We have been speaking to the nonaligned movement and telling them that export controls are absolutely essential for this treaty and their security."
"There is simply too much latitude within the current treaty regime for nuclear weapons states to retain large nuclear weapon arsenals, and for additional states to acquire under the rubric of 'peaceful uses,' latent technical capabilities for nuclear weapon design and production," he said.